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An Introduction to Memorial Hall Museum's
American Centuries: Views from New England

This website is unique in many design features that facilitate successful use by educators and students. It includes a large library of primary resources, curricula, and interactive student activities; most of them presented in age-appropriate, user-friendly formats.

The Online Collection
American Centuries features a digital collection of approximately 2000 objects and transcribed document pages from Memorial Hall Museum and Library. An image of each of these items appears on an Item Page accompanied by interpretive text available on age-appropriate levels. Museum staff authored the text content with review by teachers, school librarians, and nationally recognized scholars.

The Online Collection may be explored in a number of ways:

  • A user may browse through an assortment of topical mini-exhibits;
  • or search widely by engaging a full text search that draws on both the curatorial database and the Online Collection's labels;
  • or utilize an assisted search with drop-down menus of helpful terms, topics, time periods and museum item categories and nomenclature.

Searching the Online Collection is made more accessible by a "thesaurus" function; for example when a young student is looking for "farms", the search engine identifies related words (such as agriculture and husbandry) and retrieves all related items. There are hypertext glossary words embedded the interpretive labels to provide definitions of historical words and concepts. There are also hypertext links to People and Places-- brief introductions to important personalities, events and locations relevant to this site. These are embedded in the interpretive text as well. Additional features that enhance educational use are the capacity for side-by-side viewing of items and user-controlled magnification with the Look Closer feature.

Turns of the Centuries Exhibit
One section of the American Centuries site is an interactive exhibit that focuses on three past "turns of the centuries" -- 1700, 1800 and 1900. Each of these Turns was a major benchmark in American history: the Colonial period; the Federal period; and the Progressive and Colonial Revival period. In the exhibit, five themes are explored across these time periods: Native Americans, African Americans, Newcomers (settlers, and immigrants), the Land, and Family Life. Interactive "Slide-shows" and Roll-over Activities enliven each exhibit item.

In the Classroom
This site includes an array of classroom lessons on the elementary, middle, and secondary levels written and tested by classroom teachers under the direction of curriculum specialists. The curricula use primary resources available on the site. Activities are designed for independent and cooperative learning.

Curriculum topics include exploration of relationships between the French, the English, and the Native Americans that led up to the French and Indian Wars including the attack of Deerfield in 1704; study of American History through everyday life in a single Massachusetts community; graveyard-centered study researching the lives of deceased residents of Deerfield in order to draw conclusions about New England and the use of historical evidence to recreate life in a New England village at the turn of three centuries to illuminate broader themes of Massachusetts, United States, and World History during the Colonial, Federal and Progressive periods.

The site also includes a wide variety of grade appropriate short activities designed by teachers for teachers that can be used in classrooms.

My Collection
With the click of the "Add to My Collection" button available on each Item Page, a user can compile a virtual collection drawn from the museum's Online Collection. This "collecting" can be done just for fun or as part of a user's research project. My Collection can be printed out in its own format and can be placed on any of several themed chonologies to create a customized Chronology.

Things To Do
A menu of interactive activities is provided on this site. They are fun ways of exploring the past while gaining skills in using this website. The activities also provide experience in using primary resources. To date, the activities are "Dress Up" which details the clothing of of different historical periods; Now Read This which challenges the user to try his or her abilities reading old documents; Magic Lens that reveals the contents of old documents; Objects in the Round that give a 360 degree look at artifacts from our museum; Video demonstrations of Early American tools, an interactive map to African American sites in Deerfield, and an exploration of New England architecture.

The image of a collected item or items from the Online Collection can be placed on a customized Chronology that gives it historical context. There are several Chronologies from which the user may select including ones based on New England History, US History, World History and Art among others.

People and Places
This is a mini-encyclopedia of personalities, events and places that are useful to know when exploring the history of New England. Entries can be viewed in alphabetical or chronological order and either in their entirety or by category. Some entries include portraits or photographs. Clicking on an entry opens a small new window with additional information.

The entire site can be searched from the site search feature located on each page. We hope you enjoy our site. Please feel free to use the Feedback page to tell us your reactions.


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